LeveesNotWar.org welcomes President Obama on his third visit to oil-spoiled southern Louisiana since the BP Earth Day Blowout. We call on the president to heal the nation’s sense of helplessness—and blow away the sniping pundits—by launching a full-scale alternative energy reform initiative on the scale of America’s mobilization in World War II: the Manhattan Project, the TVA, the Interstate Highway System, or the Apollo mission—or all of these combined.
[Author’s note: A mention of oil revenue royalties in ¶2 prompted some comments and questions. I have attempted to answer the questions below in the reply titled "To Alba, MintJulep, LuckyDog, et al."]
[An illustrated version of this post appears at LeveesNotWar.org.]
Welcome back to Louisiana, Mr. President. Take a good look around. Our state bird, only recently removed from the Endangered Species list, now so soaked with crude oil it can’t lift its wings or even breathe. Our hearts are breaking for the dying pelicans and all that they represent, including the 11 dead oil rig workers and the idled shrimpers, oystermen, and fishermen.
It is probably a good thing that you have appointed former senator Bob Graham and former EPA administrator William K. Reilly as co-chairs of a BP Oil Spill Commission—though we hope they won’t be a blue-ribbon panel that serves only to justify further deep-sea drilling and oil addiction. We definitely do not want a return to oil business as usual. We are pleased that Attorney General Eric Holder has announced criminal investigations in the BP calamity. We like your call to roll back "billions of dollars in tax breaks" for oil companies to use the money for clean energy research and development—it’s about time. And it is good that Secretary Salazar is intent on cleaning house and reorganizing the Minerals Management Service by separating the regulation and enforcement functions from the oil exploration promotion and royalty collection part. But there’s more: We want your full backing of Senator Landrieu’s proposed Accelerated Revenue Sharing (see the Times-Picayune’s editorial "Louisiana Needs Its Share of Offshore Oil Revenue Now, Mr. President"). Louisiana has gone too long without its fair share of offshore oil and gas revenue royalties. We need that money now, not in 2017.
Large-Scale Action, and Action Now
. . . the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition [to a clean energy economy]. The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.
Your remarks on the economy this week at Carnegie Mellon University were admirable in their breadth and priorities, but this vision is still not bold enough. We want you to Go Big—to push Congress to go big—for a full-blown energy reform movement. Administration officials’ insistence that "from day one" the federal government has been in charge of the oil spill response are meaningless and not reassuring. Actions speak louder.
Now is the time, Mr. President. Give us some audacity of hope, audacity of bold action, unmistakable action. Something equal to the U.S. war mobilization in World War II. ("Be Bold, Obama." "Spend, Obama, Spend.")
You have often spoken of the critical need to develop alternative, sustainable energy, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the "Stimulus") gave a strong injection of billions of dollars as "down payments." Further, you and Vice President Biden have been vocal supporters of rail and public transportation and have allocated considerable federal funding, as with your announcement in January of $8 billion in funding for high-speed rail projects. But again, as you acknowledged at the time, this is only a down payment. We can’t—and we shouldn’t—wait any longer.
Mr. President, a major, massive, fully committed national shift toward alternative energy must begin now. (Talking to you, too, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, Jeff Bingaman, Mary Landrieu, David Vitter . . .) As your chief of staff says, let no crisis go to waste. Give us Energy Reform—change we can believe in. Push for Energy Reform on the scale of the Manhattan Project, the Interstate Highway System, the TVA, or the Apollo mission—or all of these combined.
Awaken the Green Giant
In addition to your full-throated, insistent support for the best elements of the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act and the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (passed in May 2009) and the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act—press Congress to pass them ASAP—what America needs immediately in massive doses is funding for an Energy Independence Act (or some catchy name—call it "Green Giant" if it makes people happy). Just do it. The public will be with you in great numbers. But you have to mean it. Take your health care reform passion and quadruple it. A New York Times editorial ("While the Senate Fiddles") said it well last month:
. . . the [Kerry-Lieberman] bill has no chance unless President Obama steps up. Mr. Obama pledged to "engage" with the Senate to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill "this year." This was one of those ticket-punching statements that isn’t going to change any minds. What he should have said is that he is going to hammer on the Senate until it does what this country needs. [emphasis added]
Push now, push hard, push soon—we’ll push with you—and then we as a nation won’t feel so damned, pathetically helpless. The time is right. The timing has never been better. It is the politically astute thing to do and it is the morally right thing to do. We know you care. Now put your empathy into action.